The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

February 25, 2013

Benefit on tap for heart transplant recipient

By Ian Faulkner, Staff Writer

Monday, February 25, 2013 — “We’re not promised tomorrow,” said Max Summerlin, a heart transplant recipient.

On March 2 at Cottonville Baptist Church in Norwood, there will be a benefit for Summerlin to help offset the medical costs from having a heart transplant (doctor’s bills, perscriptions, etc.).

Back in 2011, Max Summerlin was diagnosed with triple-system failure, meaning his heart, kidneys and lungs were shutting down on him, but he didn’t know that at the time. He just thought it was a wicked case of bronchitus that wouldn’t go away.

But one night at the end of March a friend, Connie Wallace, called and told Max and his wife, Shirley, to take him to the hospital. Wallace had been praying and felt the need to call him immediately.

“I fully believe if we hadn’t gone that night, he wouldn’t have made it the next day. He was very weak,” Shirley Summerlin said.

When they got to the hospital, they found out about the three-system failure.

Within a few months, and numerous tests and procedures later, Max went on the heart transplant list.

Max didn’t get the call for the tranplant until nearly a year later.

Max and his wife were at the hospital for a doctor’s appointment when they got the call.

“Katie, the transplant coordinator, called and said, ‘How soon can you be at the hospital? We have a heart for you.’ He said, ‘We’re sitting in the waiting room right now!’ ” Shirley said.

The Summerlins explain-ed that Max needed more than just the heart. He needed the valves and everything else to make the organ work properly, which he got in the transplant.

The one thing Max wanted to know before he went in for surgery was who was going to be with Shirley during his transplant.

Max spent 11 days in recovery at the hospital. He had one incident in which the doctors feared his body was rejecting the heart, but it turned out to be fluid in his chest.

“The nurses told me blue wasn’t a good color on me,” Max said.

Despite the gravity of his health, Max still had it in him to be a character.

“The nurses learned in a hurry he was trouble,” said Shirley with a smile.

The worst part about the whole ordeal for Max was being away from friends and family. Because of his condition, Max had to stay away from people for the most part to avoid becoming sick. Even after the transplant, he has to be careful and avoid large crowds.

During the whole process, Max said he met some wonderful people who looked after him before and after his transplant.

“People have been wonderful. God has been wonderful. He sent people to us every time we needed something. He kept His word,” Max said.

“God has taken care of us,” Shirley said.

Max ran a trophy shop in Oakboro for years, spent time as a referee for softball and baseball games and was an avid coonhunter. Through the years Max has also received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.

He has had benefits before to help with his medical costs. The Cottonville chapter of the Carolina Faith Riders hosted a benefit for him in September 2011, before his transplant. Max’s hunting club has also hosted a benefit for him.

The benefit will run from 4-7 p.m. March 2,  offering plates of grilled chicken breast, slaw, baked beans, roll, dessert and a drink available for dine-in or take-out.

The event is sponsored by Cedar Grove Methodist Church, Mt. Zion Methodist Church and Cottonville Baptist Church.

For more information contact Ashley Hudson at (704) 474-9335 or Alex Will-oughby at (704) 474-3236.

To submit story ideas, contact Ian Faulkner at or (704) 982-2121 ext. 21.